Causes Week 2021: Bringing cheer to underprivileged kids on their birthdays

Causes Week, which is into its 10th iteration, runs this year from Dec 21 to 25. It shines a light on various individuals and groups, and shows how they are making a difference through their chosen causes within the community, for children and youth, in sports and arts, among others.

Ms Jurina Ooi's five children posing with balloons sent by One Wish SG to celebrate one of the children's birthdays. PHOTO: MS JURINA OOI
One Wish SG founder Falice Ann (third from right) with Ms Jurina Ooi (second left) and her children. PHOTO: ONE WISH SG

SINGAPORE - Ms Falice Ann Ke Mei felt so sorry for the little boy at her childcare centre who did not get a birthday celebration as his parents could not afford it that she forked out money for a cake for the six-year-old herself.

The pre-school teacher then invited his parents and grandparents to celebrate his birthday with him at the centre.

Though the incident happened more than four years ago, Ms Ann could not forget how many children there are whose parents cannot afford to throw them birthday parties. In June, she began One Wish SG to sponsor celebrations.

In the space of four months, One Wish celebrated the birthdays of more than 180 children, with cakes and presents paid for by individual donors.

Ms Ann said that she herself did not get to celebrate her birthday earlier this year, and it only solidified her belief that no child should be so deprived.

"If a 26-year-old like me still felt sad when I couldn't celebrate my birthday, what about a child? I want everyone to feel special on their birthdays," she said.

Ms Ann, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression in 2017, said that the project has helped her just as much as it has made children happy.

"Even though I loved working with children, I found that holding jobs like that made me miserable, owing to my mental health. I would be so overwhelmed before work that I would cry sometimes," she said.

When she quit her job and started One Wish, she felt that the change suited her better.

"Bringing smiles to children across the island brings joy to myself too," she said.

Mother of five Jurina Ooi, 29, would usually put aside some money to buy doughnuts to celebrate her children's birthdays, but her son was in for a surprise when he turned two in July.

Thanks to One Wish, the boy woke up on his birthday to find a cake, some cookies and balloons.

"My son was so happy as it was his first time seeing a cake like that and a balloon with his name on it," said Ms Ooi, whose other children are aged between one and nine.

Ms Jurina Ooi (right) with four of her five children celebrating her two-year-old's birthday in July, with the help of One Wish SG. PHOTO: MS JURINA OOI

Organisations such as Big At Heart, which works with women and children, alert One Wish about upcoming birthdays, and the list is sent to a WhatsApp group of more than 140 people, comprising members of the public or bakers who are willing to sponsor a child's celebration.

"We get details from the organisations like the children's favourite colour or cartoon, and try to get cakes and presents they would like," Ms Ann said.

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Now that One Wish has brought smiles to 180 children across the island, Ms Ann said she does not plan on stopping until she reaches a target of 100 birthdays a month.

"And after I reach all the kids in Singapore, why not Asia, or even the world one day?"

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Learn more about this cause by contacting Ms Falice Ann at angkemei@gmail.com or at her Instagram page.

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